BIRMINGHAM: Up to 25,000 British Pakistani men, women and children from across the UK gathered in Aston Park here to express their love for Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to call on the British government to introduce legislation that bars Islamophobes from insulting Islam under the garb of the freedom of speech.
The participants, who also travelled from several parts of European cities, were led in a peaceful and colourful mile-long march by Hazrat Peer Alauddin Siddiqui. This is the fourth consecutive gathering for the biggest Melaad-un-Nabi (PBUH) of British Pakistanis in Britain but this year it was dedicated to “protect the honour and legacy of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)”. Speakers included interfaith leaders from Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish religions and parliamentarians from Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Sardar Attique Khan, former Azad Kashmir prime minister, was the chief guest of the rally.
Hazrat Peer Alauddin Siddiqui, who is a renowned Sufi scholar, told Geo News: “Thousands have come together to show peacefully to the western world that the production and promotion of a recent film insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has caused hurt to Muslims all over the world. We are a peaceful community and we will do everything to protect peace and respect for all on equal basis. It’s not fair that some people insult Islam everyday and preach hatred through their actions and words but the lack of legislation encourages such elements. We want to tell our government that we welcome debate and constructive criticism of our religion but insults are unacceptable and inflammatory language is contributing to the rise of extremism amongst youth in western countries where youth mistakenly believe that the West hates Islam and Muslims.”
He announced that a rally of tens of thousands of Muslims will be held soon in Hyde Park to profess loyalty to Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) as well as to condemn the crudely made “Innocence of Muslims” movie which was recently released in the US and caused outrage in the Islamic world, including leading to a ban on Youtube in Pakistan.
Peer Siddiqui told the audience that relations between Islamic and Western countries have improved in recent years and these years need to be strengthened but that is possible if all religions are respected and there should be law in place to ensure that Islam and Muslims are not singled out.
“There is resentment amongst Muslims over the continuing failure of the western government for not doing enough to protect Muslims. Attacks on Muslims have increased and while we are law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of this country, we want our government to take our concern into account,” he added and appealed to Muslims to stay peaceful against provocations.
Speakers said that freedom of speech was a cherished value but abusing Islam is not freedom of speech. They said the best way forward is to engage constructively with Muslims about their religion. They said Muslims were making a great contribution towards everyday life in western countries and it is important that their contribution is recognized.